Three volumes of Lost You Forever and finally I’m seeing the end of the road ahead, with less than ten chapters left of a novel that has really taken an unforgettable bite out of my soul. A few years ago I probably would have had the energy to power translate the entire thing like I did with Da Mo Yao, but alas the few hiatus that I took with LYF likely seeped some of the fervor from the reading experience for those following along with my translations.Thankfully these last few chapters should offer a nice resurgence for the avid readers, with Tong Hua pulling out all the stops by the end.
With Jing seemingly dead to the world, it would appear that Xiao Yao either chooses to be a spinster, or end up in the arms of the other two men who love her as much if not more than Jing. But things aren’t that easy to redirect, the obstacles between Xiao Yao and Xiang Liu are only growing stronger with Zhuan Xu’s tightening of his rule over the entire vast wilderness, not to mention a new danger to Xiao Yao that is not going to be easy to siolve. Will Xiao Yao get her happy ending, or it is merely worth a life lived as colorfully as hers that she was so loved by three of the most fascinating fictional men in any novel world.
Ch 43 – Thinking of My Dearest Daily to No Avail:
Xiao Yao bowed three times to the moon and was standing up when a little white bird landed on the window sill. It didn’t have a little bird’s noisy affects and was instead silent and staring at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao put out her hand and the bird landed on her palm and spit out a small crystal ball. Xiao Yao picked up the ball and saw it wasn’t a real crystal but the fish egg of an echo fish demon. An echo fish had no intelligence but had the strange ability to remember word for word what was said. So people used its fish eggs to forge message jewels for use in transmitting voice mail.
Xiao Yao placed the fish egg to her ear and used her fingers to burst it. Her body shook as the voice said “Xiao Yao, come to the East Sea immediately, don’t tell anyone.” It was Jing’s voice.
Xiao Yao instinctively asked “Jing, say that again.” But a message jewel could only be used once and could not repeat.
The white bird flew away and Xiao snapped alert and grabbed Miao Pu “I have to go to the East Sea immediately! Don’t tell anyone!”
Miao Pu’s freaked out “No! No!”
“Miao Pu, are you going to help me or not?”
Miao Pu stuttered “But…..but……His Majesty ordered Xiao Xiao to guard outside. I can’t beat her in a fight…..” Miao Pu suddenly shut up and looked at the door.
Xiao Xiao appeared and was holding the white bird from earlier and it was already dead. She bowed to Xiao Yao “Miss, what did this white bird give you just now?”
Xiao Yao replied “Why do I need to tell you?”
Xiao Xiao stared at Miao Pu who said in a low voice “A message jewel.”
Xiao Xiao asked “What did it say?”
Miao Pu said “I didn’t hear.”
Xiao Xiao bowed again to Xiao Yao “Will Miss please tell me what the message jewel said.”
Xiao Yao cocked her head and thought “If you don’t ask clearly then you can’t report back to Zhuan Xu. Fine, I won’t make it difficult for you!” Xiao Yao walked up to Xiao Xiao and put her hand on her shoulder and leaned in to whisper. “Xiao Xiao, you’re a good girl but too inflexible at times. I’m going to the East Sea and won’t bring you because you clearly won’t let me go.”
Xiao Xiao saw black and her body went slack, tumbling backwards as Miao Pu rushed over to catch her while staring in shock at Xiao Yao.
“Help me!” Xiao Yao had Miao Pu put Xiao Xiao on the bed and covered her with a blanket before putting down the bed veil. At a glance it appeared Xiao Yao was sleeping inside.
Xiao Yao quickly changed and said to the stunned Miao Pu “What are you standing there for? Let’s go!”
Zhuan Xu didn’t just assign Xiao Xiao to protect Xiao Yao, but only Xiao Xiao and Miao Pu protect her at close range, the other four guards were men and stayed at a distance. They were guarding against outside intruders and never thought that Xiao Yao would take out Xiao Xiao so they didn’t even realize Xiao Yao had knocked Xiao Xiao out.
Xiao Yao pressed the opening and a door to a secret passage opened. She went inside with Miao Pu and started walking. Back when Zhuan Xu was renovating the Sheng Nong Palaces, Xiao Yao also studied all the design maps and saw that all the palace residences had secret passageways, some just had more than others.
Miao Pu’s expression was desolate and glum, muttering as she walked “His Majesty is going to kill me!”
Xiao Yao said “Then he’ll have to kill me first!”
Xiao Yao’s words didn’t reassure her as Miao Pu continued to look like she was going to cry.
The end of the secret passageway led to the stables and Xiao Yao said “Not sure which former owner of the residence liked to sneak out and play but this is totally helping us tonight.”
Miao Pu picked two of the strongest winged horses and readied the cloud carriage. Xiao Yao huddled in the cloud carriage and handed a jade badge to Miao Pu “This is Grandfather’s badge, allowing unfettered travel in and out of Sheng Nong Mountain.”
Miao Pu took a deep breath and said to herself “If I’m going to die then just go for it!” Miao Pu drove the cloud carriage into the air and handed the badge to the guards at the East Sky Gate and was immediately let through.
After they left Sheng Nong Mountain, Xiao Yao stuck her head out the cloud carriage “Thank you!”
Miao Pu grumbled “My Lady, why did you have to go to the East Sea in the middle of the night? Can’t Xiao Xiao have informed His Majesty, he dotes on you and lets you do whatever. If you wanted to go he would have allowed it. Why sneak around?”
“I heard Jing tell me to immediately go to the East Sea and tell no one.”
Miao Pu gasped “What? The voice inside the message jewel was the Tu Shan Clan Leader? What did he say?”
“To go to the East Sea, and to tell no one.”
Miao Pu thought about it “If he can say those words why can’t he explain more? It’s easy to find someone to impersonate his voice, but those closest to him will see through it if a lot is said. The less is said the more the ruse will work. I think this sounds fishy, my lady let’s go back!”
“Perhaps you are right but it could have been an urgent situation and he could only say such curt phrases. Miao Pu, do you know, even if there is a miniscule chance or even a trap, I have to immediately go.”
Miao Pu sighed and urged the horses faster. Even if this was a trap, the person setting it was ruthless and found the one way to get Xiao Yao to follow instructions. Miao Pu silently prayed for the miniscule chance to come true.
The two strong winged horses flew nonstop and Xiao Yao fed them Jade Mountain stew to keep up their strength. They landed on an island in the East Sea around noon the next day. The two winged horses were spitting foam from exhaustion and could not be used to search over the sea lest they fall into the water from passing out.
Xiao Yao pointed to the East where a ship was sailing towards them, and on the mast cover was a beautiful nine-tailed fox.
Xiao Yao said “I’ll go see over there, you hide here waiting for me.” Miao Pu immediately said “No! I’m going with you!”
“Then who will watch the winged horses? If they run away and we need to escape, are we going to run on our two feet?”
Miao Pu had no answer until she said “Xiao Xiao will definitely find us, their powers are strong and at most will be here in two or three hours. Wait until then.”
“We can wait but Jing might not be able to wait.” Xiao Yao picked up her amethyst fish ruby on the necklace and said “I’ll swim over there underwater and look around. If there is any danger I’ll hide deep underwater. They won’t be able to do anything to me there. If you come with me then you’ll be a liability. Plus if you wait here, you can be my backup and I can go forward or retreat. If anything happens, you can also tell Xiao Xiao and find the Xuan Yuan forces stationed nearby to come rescue us.”
Miao Pu had to admit Xiao Yao made sense but she was still upset “Then you quickly come back, just go take a look and no matter what we need to discuss before taking any action.”
“Okay!” Xiao Yao hid behind a rock and slowly disappeared into the water.
Xiao Yao didn’t need the fish ruby to breath underwater but she didn’t want others to know of her body’s new ability and she kept the fish ruby on her because it was a gift from Jing. Right now Xiao Yao felt this ache in her heart as she sank into the water and prayed: heavens, you can do anything cruel to me but please let Jing be alive even if he’s gravely injured or crippled.
Xiao Yao was swimming under the ship taking things in when a woman in purple laying on the edge lifted her head “If you want to see Tu Shan Jing then get on the ship.”
Xiao Yao emerged and asked “Why should I believe you?”
The woman tossed a scrap of cloth at Xiao Yao and it on it was writing in Jing’s hand. It was the lyrics of the song she sang for him in his residence.
If beloved is wind above the water
I will be the lily in the wind
To see and to miss
To see and to miss
If beloved is the cloud in the sky
I would be the moon in the cloud
To love and to cherish
To love and to cherish
If beloved were the tree in the forest
I would be the vines on the tree
Together and connected
Together and connected
Why does the world have sadness
Why do lives have gathering and parting
Only wish with beloved
Together forever, never apart
Xiao Yao finished reading and restrained her tears before jumping on the ship.
The woman in purple handed a bowl of wine to Xiao Yao with a laugh “I’ve heard you are well versed in medicines so I don’t dare to use poison in front of you. This is just a bowl of wine made from the red jade plant. Humans who drink it will sleep for three hundred years, at most it’ll make a god weak in the limbs and dizzy and a good sleep will shake it off. It’s not a poison or will render you unconscious, therefore it doesn’t have an antidote either. After you drink it I will take you to see Tu Shan Jing.”
Xiao Yao picked up the bowl and sniffed, it really was red jade plant wine. Drinking too much would make it addictive, but one drink wouldn’t harm the body.
The purple robed woman said “I never force anyone, if you don’t want to drink then go back!”
Xiao Yao raised her head and gulped it down “Where is Jing?”
“I always fulfill my promises!” The woman started moving the ship into the deeper reaches of the ocean.
The ship moved swiftly over the water and Xiao Yao could hear the wind whistling around her as her limbs weakened so she laid down on the deck and stared up at the sky.
The ship stopped in the middle of the ocean nowhere, with no land in sight in any direction. The woman walked over and picked up Xiao Yao to place her inside a crystal coffin.
Xiao Yao weakly asked “What are you doing?”
The woman took out the scrap of song lyric and burned it, then took Xiao Yao’s amethyst fish ruby and shattered it completely, turning it into purple light.
Tears fell from Xiao Yao’s eyes “Where’s Jing?”
The purple robed woman leaned on the coffin with a smile “Tu Shan Jing is dead! I’m fulfilling my promise now to send you to see him! This ship is taking in water now and soon will completely sink into the ocean. I’m just a hired killer and doing my job. The person who hired me gave specific instructions – no hint of blood and you have to disappear completely without a trace, not even a hair to be found. I thought all night about it and remembered this area in the ocean and how scary it is and come up with this plan.” The woman patted Xiao Yao’s face “Can you imagine how much the person who hired me hates you, to not even let a hair of you remain on this earth? But, only this way can there be no trace left of you, otherwise the Yellow Emperor and the Black Emperor will be hard to deal with.”
Xiao Yao stared at the sky and didn’t feel any rage at being lied to, or fear at imminent death. Only the sadness of having her hopes dashed. Since childhood she had lived a hard life, her heart always drifting, feeling like she would be abandoned at any time. After her engagement to Jing did her heart settle down, thinking that things would finally change. Who knew Jing left her, even if it was just like her parents when a reason that couldn’t be helped. But she was still abandoned again, and she didn’t want to keep being strong anymore to face a long life ahead. If Jing slept in this ocean then she would rather be here with him.
The purple robed woman noticed that Xiao Yao was oddly at peace, not like people she killed in the past, and felt some pity for her. She fixed Xiao Yao’s hair and cloth and sincerely complimented “Your wedding dress is very beautiful, your hairstyle is lovely as well. You are an exquisite bride, the Tu Shan Clan Leader will be very pleased when he sees you.”
Xiao Yao broke into a beaming smile “Thank you!”
The woman startled “Don’t you want to know who wants to kill you?”
Xiao Yao didn’t even care to answer, what difference if she knows or not.
The woman in purple said “I don’t even know who it is, the person paid an astronomical sum so my partner and I decided to take this job and afterwards we can retire.”
The water lapped at her feet so the woman sealed the crystal coffin tightly before looking skyward “So annoying, I have to show my demon form again.” She transformed into a seagull and flew into the sky, her clothes burning on the deck and disappearing.
The crystal coffin slowly sank into the water.
Xiao Yao felt suffocated and couldn’t breathe, until the water seeped into the coffin and she could breathe like a fish returning to the water. Xiao Yao laughed wryly as she thought about this plan and how perfect it was, to kill her with no bloodshed and hidden in the depths of the ocean. Except the plan wasn’t perfect because no one knew that Xiao Yao couldn’t drown.
Because she drank the red jade plant wine, Xiao Yao was woozy and found it hard to think. As the coffin sank she thought she was going to die as well and was calmly facing death, except now she wasn’t going to die and felt like a free falling entity that couldn’t find an end to the fall.
Xiao Yao laid in the crystal coffin and looked at the fishes swimming around her. She tapped on the coffin and asked “Have you guys seen Jing?”
The fishes were startled and swam off. Xiao Yao could only lay in the crystal coffin zoned out.
The sun set outside and gradually the water turned dark, as dark as ink. Many fishes glowed in the dark so the water was like a night sky filled with shooting stars. She wondered if Xiao Xiao arrived, whether Zhuan Xu was looking for her, if Miao Pu was crying. Xiao Yao suddenly remembered how angry Zhuan Xu would be and what if he killed Miao Pu. Xiao Yao stopped laying there to enjoy the view and started to try and get out. But no matter how hard she pushed she couldn’t open the coffin.
Xiao Yao tried so hard to open the coffin but it wouldn’t budge, until she was all tired out and hungry. She suddenly realized that she might end up dying after all, not of drowning but of hunger. Xiao Yao rested for a bit before continuing to try and open the coffin.
Suddenly her instinct sensed danger. She looked around and there wasn’t a fish in sight, the colorful underwater was now pitch black. Xiao Yao felt the entire ocean shaking and she remembered the seagull demon saying how scary the ocean was under here. She suddenly remembered what Xiang Liu said before, that after he escaped from the slave death match ring, he almost died in an underwater tornado called a whirlpool. Xiang Liu may not have been that powerful then but something that almost killed him must really be super scary.
Xiao Yao had never seen a whirlpool before but if it was like a tornado on land then anything it passed would be obliterated. This really was the perfect way to ensure not a hair of Xiao Yao was left behind.
Xiao Yao tried to bust out of the coffin but it still didn’t move, making her understand why the seagull demon took that extra step of sealing her inside the coffin.
The water churned around her and the coffin was swept up in the waves of the whirlpool, with Xiao Yao getting spun around so hard she was seeing stars.
She could hear the coffin getting crunched and now she prayed for the coffin to stay intact. If the whirlpool was so powerful as to shatter the immovable crystal coffin, then the second the coffin broke Xiao Yao would be crushed to oblivion.
As the water churned faster and faster, the power of the whirlpool increased and in a resounding crack the coffin shattered. Xiao Yao screamed and closed her eyes, but then didn’t experience the pain of being smashed to smithereens.
Xiao Yao slowly opened her eyes and in the whirling inferno she saw Xiang Liu, white hair white robe, standing right in front of her. His hair was fanned out like the wings of a bird and was protecting Xiao Yao by forming a barrier between her and the whirlpool.
Xiao Yao felt like this was a dream and stare dumbfounded at Xiang Liu. He furrowed his brows, clearly he was being affected being in the whirlpool. They were also being carried closer and closer to the center, and by then even Xiang Liu would be crushed.
He moved his hands over Xiao Yao’s face and closed her eyes. She heard his voice “I need to revert to my demon form so that we can escape from here. Don’t look!”
Xiao Yao nodded and felt this humongous impact, like something ripped a hole in the whirlpool. She felt they were far away and the danger was gone. That made her curious and she wanted to open her eyes to see Xiang Liu’s demon form. She hesitated and told herself “just one peek” before opening her eyes.
In the thundering around, she could see a pure white nine-headed sea demon battling with the ocean, with the ocean trying to destroy it but the sea demon taking every hit and bracing for more. This was a battle as powerful as the earth and the sky fighting, without any flowery moves or clever techniques, just brute force against brute force, shaking the world around it.
In the heat of battle, Xiang Liu actually sensed Xiao Yao’s tiny move and one head turned to look at her. Xiao Yao immediately closed her eyes and her heart was racing uncontrollably, not because she was scared of him but because she was so awestruck. It was like someone who had never seen the ocean seeing it for the first time, someone who had never seen the mountain seeing it for the first time. It wasn’t about beauty or ugly, it was about being in awe of such power.
“I told you not to open your eyes.” Xiang Liu’s icy cold voice rang out.
Xiao Yao opened her eyes and saw that they were now on a deserted island. Xiang Liu’s clothes were torn and messy, and his face and neck were covered in injuries.
Xiao Yao forced a smile and tried to act nonchalant “I was just curious what your nine heads looked like.”
“Now you know!” Xiang Liu turned to leave.
“Xiang Liu……Xiang Liu…..” Seeing him about to disappear, Xiao Yao was so anxious she threw herself at him, and Xiang Liu didn’t manage to avoid her and was instead hugged straight on by Xiao Yao. Plus he couldn’t even stand up still and fell down on the sand taking Xiao Yao with him.
Xiao Yao worriedly asked “The injuries are severe, for real?”
Xiang Liu tried hard to push Xiao Yao away to swim off with the receding tide.
Xiao Yao grabbed him and twined herself completely around him, using all her strength so that he couldn’t leave. “I was wrong! I promised to close my eyes and not look but I welshed on my promise and secretly opened my eyes! I just……..just…….I admit it was my pathetic curiosity! I wanted to know what you really looked like. I was wrong! I was wrong……..”
The waves crashed on the beach with a roar and retreated with a howl, the two of them were covered by the waves and emerged again and again so Xiao Yao’s voice was sometimes audible and other times muffled. It wasn’t clear how much Xiang Liu heard but it was clear he wasn’t going to accept her apology as he continued over and over to push her off him.
He managed to shove her off once more and Xiao Yao got so frantic she hooked her arms around his legs and jumped up to pounce on him, using her body to tightly grab him and pull him down again. Xiang Liu had no strength left to push Xiao Yao off but he was like a terribly stubborn child and continued to wriggle under her.
The water around them was seeped with red, clearly Xiang Liu’s injuries were bleeding and Xiao Yao begged “I’m wrong! I’m really wrong! If you want to hit me or punish me, whatever you want is fine! Just please stop moving around!”
Xiang Liu said “Let go!”
“No! Not until you first promise me not to leave!”
Xiang Liu was furious and his fangs bared “Don’t push me to eat you!”
“If you want to eat me then eat me!”
Xiang Liu jerked Xiao Yao into his arms and bit down on her neck in one move. Xiao Yao’s body shivered and then she fell slack, docilely nestled into Xiang Liu to accommodate him.
Injured Xiang Liu was like a dying of thirst traveler in the desert encountering an oasis, drinking up her blood in big gulps. Xiao Yao rested her head on his neck and closed her eyes, feeling only the rising and falling of the tides around her.
It wasn’t clear how much time passed when Xiang Liu stopped drinking her blood. Xiao Yao drowsily opened her eyes “You can drink more, I’m fine.”
Xiang Liu raised his head to look up at the star-filled sky and the hazy moonlight “Aren’t you scared one whit? You should know a demon is a demon, when gravely injured will lose control and revert to basic instinct. I could have sucked you dry!”
Xiao Yao softly touched the corner of his lips with a trace of blood on it and tenderly said “You’re the one who is scared!”
Xiang Liu scoffed “I’m scared?”
“I saw your demon form, and it wasn’t hideous at all! And you didn’t suck me dry either!” Xiang Liu stared darkly at Xiao Yao and she got up her courage to continue “Your form is larger than me……uhm, okay! So it’s not just larger, it’s much much bigger……and you have more heads than I do, just eight more only…..but the laws of nature didn’t say that a one headed type like me is the norm, right? It just happens that us one headed types are the majority, if nine headed types like you were the majority, I would feel self-conscious that I only have one head.”
“You have so much energy, clearly I should suck some more of your blood!” Xiang Liu still had a pissy face but when he leaned down to bit Xiao Yao’s neck and began sucking, Xiao Yao felt only a frisson of excitement and tingling, with no feeling of pain.
Xiao Yao said “Hey! Hey! I was just being polite just now. And you’re really sucking again? A demon really is a demon…..” And with that Xiao Yao fell asleep and finally stopped talking.
Xiang Liu stopped drinking and lifted his head to stare quietly at the sleeping Xiao Yao in his arms.
Xiao Yao woke up lured by the delicious smell of food. She opened her eyes and saw Xiang Liu by the fire roasting fish. The fish was already golden and crispy, the fat dripping into the fire. Xiao Yao crawled over on her arms and legs and stared at the fish while asking in longing “Can I eat it?”
Xiang Liu placed the fish on a large shell plate and handed it to her, on the white shell was a side of vegetables made with seaweed.
Xiao Yao swallowed and started gobbling down the food. She didn’t even stop to talk until all the fish and seaweed was in her belly before sighing “So good! So so good!”
“You’re just hungry.” Xiang Liu handed over a shell bowl with piping hot seafood soup and Xiao Yao took it with both hands and slowly sipped it.
After finishing the soup Xiao Yao said “Thank you!”
Xiang Liu coldly replied “No need! This is the payment for your blood.”
Xiao Yao pouted “Am I worth so little?”
“What do you want then?”
Xiao Yao said “My thank you was for saving me! You haven’t forgotten why you were injured in the first place, right?”
Xiang Liu furrowed his brows “It’s not that I wanted to save you, I simply have no interest to use my own life to confirm the words of the Voodoo King.”
Oh! Right, the Lover’s Bug! The Lover’s Bug does not live alone, if she died then likely Xiang Liu would die. Xiao Yao smiled sadly “No matter what, thank you for saving me.”
Xiang Liu asked “Why were you imprisoned in the ocean?”
“Someone wanted to kill me.”
Xiang Liu stared in disgust at Xiao Yao “Someone wanted to kill you, so you let yourself get imprisoned?”
Xiao Yao stared at the fire and said nothing.
Xiang Liu pressed on “Why didn’t you fight back?”
Xiao Yao said in a low voice “Jing……disappeared.” She suddenly remembered and anxiously asked “The East Sea is like your home. You….you….have you seen Jing?”
Xiang Liu mockingly said “Do you think I spend my time hanging in the ocean just waiting to rescue people?”
“No….I just thought….Qing Shui Town is also your territory of sorts, perhaps you noticed Tu Shan Hou’s activities. The East Sea may be big but you’re a sea demon….so maybe…..”
Xiang Liu coldly replied “There aren’t that many maybes!”
Xiao Yao lowered her head and her tears came down silently.
Xiang Liu turned around to stare at the ocean expanse, with his back to Xiao Yao, but even then he clearly heard her tears falling. One drop after another, so soft and bunched together, the sound entered his ears like a sharp thorn prick, each drop a stab to his heart.
Xiang Liu said “If you have time to cry, use it to think about who tried to kill you.”
Xiao Yao suddenly remembered Miao Pu and used her sleeve to wipe away her tears “I have to go back, otherwise Zhuan Xu will kill Miao Pu for sure!”
“Even if the Black Emperor wanted to kill Miao Pu, he’d have to find her first.”
Xiao Yao remembered the seagull demon mentioning a partner. Miao Pu never came to rescue her which meant she likely encountered the other killer. Xiao Yao’s face fell “Miao Pu…..is Miao Pu dead?”
“I don’t know! When I rushed over all I saw were two winged horse corpses in the water. She likely was attacked but I didn’t see her body.” Xiao Yao sighed in relief until Xiang Liu added “She could have sunk into the ocean.”
Xiang Liu always had a way of making her grateful to him in one second, and the other want to choke him to death. Xiao Yao was anxious and upset but there was nothing she could do to Xiang Liu for being mean “I need to find Miao Pu, you take me back to that island.”
Xiang Liu said “I happen to have free time, I can accompany you to go look for Miao Pu.”
“When did you become so nice?”
“Of course there is a price.”
“I only have one head so can’t outthink your nine heads. I don’t think this deal is going to be good.”
Xiang Liu vaulted into the ocean without a care about Xiao Yao’s reverse psychology negotiating tactics. Xiao Yao anxiously jumped into the ocean after him and grabbed a lock of his flowing white hair.
Xiang Liu turned around and glared at her so Xiao Yao let go with a smile “You help me find the seagull demon and I agree to your price.” The seagull demon chose to let the whirlpool swallow her up forever, clearly she knew this ocean expanse very well. Only with Xiang Liu’s help could Xiao Yao hope to find her quickly.
Xiang Liu rose up from the ocean to stand on the waves. His white hair like the clouds, his white robe like the snow, the silver moonlight made him look even more noble and ethereal, except his expression looking down at Xiao Yao was filled with an evil smirk “Any price I want?”
Xiao Yao stood up on the waves and raised her chin to look at Xiang Liu “As long as it has nothing to do with Zhuan Xu, then any price is fine!” For Miao Pu, even if she had to make a real deal with the devil she would do it. At this point what else did she have left to lose?
Xiang Liu said “The price is for you to stay alive! Even if Tu Shan Jing is really dead, you have to stay alive!”
Xiao Yao stared dumbstruck at Xiang Liu before her eyes went beyond him to stare at the limitless ocean horizon. A life that was long, a longing that had no end in sight……if she didn’t give up and stayed alive, what would that feel like? Probably like a dark night with no sunrise. Xiao Yao didn’t understand why Xiang Liu cared about her life or death.
Xiang Liu coldly said “I just don’t have any interest to die with you! If you want to give up, then first find the way to break the voodoo bug link.”
Right! Her life was connected to Xiang Liu. She really did need to find the solution to break the spell. Xiao Yao said “I accept your price so take me to find the seagull demon!”
Xiang Liu summoned his gold crowned white condor Furball and vaulted on with Xiao Yao.
They were already in the deep ocean but still there was more out there. Furball flew all night but the ocean beneath still looked the same. From above there was still no land in sight, just endless ocean beneath. Xiao Yao said “The ocean really can swallow everything.”
Xiang Liu casually said “We’ve arrived.
Xiao Yao saw a ship below and Miao Pu was unconscious on the deck. The seagull demon was wearing bright red and currently arguing with a man. The man had his back to Xiao Yao so she couldn’t see his face. He was wearing coarse clothes that had been washed so many times it was white, his body tall but on the thin side. He didn’t look like a killer at all.
“Kill her! If you don’t kill her then the Black Emperor and the Yellow Emperor will surely find us! Do you want to die? I said kill her!” The seagull demon was so furious she was apoplectic to the point she wanted to kill the man in front of her but didn’t dare make a move.
The man didn’t appear to like to talk so he just ignored the seagull demon’s screaming and calmly said “No kill!”
Xiang Liu flew down on Furball without even trying to conceal himself. Xiao Yao whispered “They are killers! It’s two against one, how’s your injuries?”
Xiang Liu glanced at Xiao Yao “Two against two.”
Xiao Yao rolled her eyes, unsure whether she should be happy that Xiang Liu thought so highly of her, so angry that Xiang Liu thought so highly of her.
The seagull demon was so angry she didn’t even sense their approach but the man did. He turned around like a beast ready to attack, his entire being radiating danger. Xiao Yao actually felt this overwhelming fear and wanted to back up, thankfully Xiang Liu radiated even more danger so the man stared intently at Xiang Liu and backed up one step.
Xiang Liu and Xiao Yao jumped onto the deck and the seagull demon stared in shock “You….you’re not dead?”
Xiao Yao smiled and twirled once “Not dead, and from head to toe perfect as can be.”
The seagull demon glanced behind Xiao Yao at the white hair white robed man with beautiful features standing there, suddenly remembering the legend of a very famous demon in the vast wilderness. Her face fell and she immediately moved behind her partner, but she still incredulously asked “Xiang Liu? Nine Lives Xiang Liu?”
Xiang Liu didn’t even spare the seagull demon a look, clearly he didn’t even consider her a threat. All his attention was on the man in front, the two were like two beasts poised, neither moving but both waiting to find each other’s weakness.
Xiao Yao stared at the cowering seagull demon and laughed “What if he is Xiang Liu? Or isn’t Xiang Liu?”
The seagull demon said “He can’t be Xiang Liu. You are the Yellow Emperor’s granddaughter, there is no way he would save you.”
So even the demons who didn’t care about human relationships and emotions saw her relationship and connection with Xiang Liu the same way as everyone in the vast wilderness did, that it couldn’t possibly happen. Xiao Yao was suddenly pissy and didn’t want to taunt the seagull demon anymore. She put on a stern expression “Give my maid back!”
At that moment, the skinny pale young man suddenly launched an attack like a tiger pouncing towards Xiang Liu. The seagull demon reverted to her bird form and flew into the air, abandoning her partner just like that.
Xiao Yao’s archery skill was so good she could have taken down the seagull demon, but Xiang Liu was severely injured and she was so worried about him she didn’t even care about chasing the seagull demon. Xiao Yao’s eyes were locked on the attacking young man.
Xiang Liu and the young man quickly sparred before breaking apart again. The young man’s chest was rising and falling rapidly while his eyes were locked on Xiang Liu, who looked very relaxed and said with a laugh “Xiao Yao, don’t you recognize this little beast?”
Xiao Yao did feel like she knew the young man so she stared long and hard at him. The young man seemed affected when he heard her name, but right now he was like an animal caught in the claws of a stronger beast so he didn’t dare move to try and get a good look at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao saw the young man was missing an ear and finally remembered who he was. That slave who endured forty years and finally won his freedom! Xiao Yao happily ran over to him “Hey! How come you became a killer for hire? I’m Xiao Yao, do you still remember me?”
Xiang Liu didn’t try and stop her, like allowing a small animal to go investigate a larger beast or not interfering with a child playing. He only stared intently at the young man, and if he made even the hint of attacking then Xiang Liu would kill him in an instant.
The young man also sensed that Xiang Liu wasn’t going to kill him right now, but he didn’t want Xiang Liu to get the wrong impression so he still didn’t dare move. He only looked over at Xiao Yao and tried hard to smile, but since the young man rarely smiled the expression was really awkward.
The young man said “I am Left Ear.”
Xiao Yao said “You’re using the name I gave you! You still remember me then?”
Left Ear said “I remember.” He would never ever be able to forget her or the man she called Bei.
Xiao Yao asked “All these years, how have you been?”
“Your money, used it up, so hungry, near death, kill people, can earn money.”
Xiao Yao was startled and counted on her fingers before turning to Xiang Liu “He used fourteen words to describe tens of years of his life. He’s the other extreme from me, I could have used up fourteen hours to tell my story.”
Xiang Liu laughed “Are you sure fourteen hours is enough for you? You pushed a monkey to bash his head against a rock wall to commit suicide rather than hear you keep talking, fourteen hours is not nearly enough!”
Left Ear saw that Xiang Liu wasn’t going to interfere so he ran over and picked up Miao Pu “For you, don’t want your money!”
Xiao Yao examined Miao Pu and found her fine and just passed out. She fed Miao Pu a pill before moving her to the inside cabin to rest.
Xiang Liu asked Left Ear “Why didn’t you kill Miao Pu?”
Xiao Yao walked out of the cabin “Yes, why didn’t you kill her?” With Left Ear’s personality and background, if he attacked it would be swift and ruthless, but Miao Pu was only slightly injured.
Left Ear said “She smelled like your scent.”
Xiao Yao thought about it and realized why. Back then she often went to the flower demon shops to play with Xiang Liu, and tried many different essences. She thought it fun to combine essences into unique scents and made some which she gave to Ah Nian and Xing Yue. She kept one for herself that she named “dream”, and later Miao Pu liked it so Xiao Yao gave it all to her after getting bored with using it herself.
Xiao Yao mused with a sigh “I haven’t played with scents in a long time, but it’s been tens of years and you still remember the scent?”
Left Ear said “I remember!” Back then he was dirty and smelly and everyone shrank away from him, too scared to even get close. Xiao Yao’s hug was the first time anyone had ever hugged him. He didn’t know what Xiao Yao was thinking but he forever memorized her unique smell. It was a scent that was present yet drifting, distant yet close, like a starry sky in a summer’s night.
Xiao Yao couldn’t help but sigh at the vagaries of life, who knew her one casual action so many years ago would end up saving Miao Pu’s life today.
Xiang Liu asked Left Ear “Who hired you to kill Xiao Yao?”
“I don’t know. Seagull said she would kill the other and sent me to kill her.” Left Ear pointed to Miao Pu inside the cabin. “After it was done, Seagull was going to give me ten gold coins and said I could use it to buy a plot of land in the countryside and take a wife to settle down.”
Xiao Yao was furious “What? She only gave you ten gold coins? How could I be worth so little! She totally tricked you!”
Left Ear lowered his head and stared at his toes before saying dejectedly “I didn’t know it was you. I shouldn’t have accepted.”
Xiao Yao patted him on the shoulder “Don’t worry, we’re all fine right!”
A resounding condor cry reached them and Furball came flying back with a seagull in his claws. He proudly circled above them a few times and intentionally called out to Xiao Yao. That’s when Xiao Yao realized that Xiang Liu’s “two against two” was referring to himself and Furball, not Xiao Yao. He didn’t even count Xiao Yao in the fight.
Furball got his fill of showing off and landed on the deck. He stood on one foot and used the other to hold the seagull.
The seagull was so scared she was shivering underfoot, pleading “I didn’t know Ms. Xi Ling was the friend of the Great General Xiang Liu. Will General Xiang Liu spare my life seeing as we’re all demons. I promise to never make the same mistake again!”
Xiang Liu asked “The identity of your employer?”
“I don’t know. The other side clearly knew Ms. Xi Ling’s identity was special so took extra precautions when meeting with me. I only heard his voice but that could be faked as well.”
Xiang Liu coldly scoffed and Furball pressed own hard so the seagull cried out in pain “There is a song lyric written on cloth that the other side said would make Ms. Xi Ling agree to do what I asked. But neither Left Ear nor I know how to read so I don’t know what the lyrics said.” Reading is only what the nobility and above had the ability to learn, forget a killer like the seagull demon, even many generals and commanders in the kingdoms didn’t know how to read.
Furball used his beak to pluck off a thatch of seagull’s fur so she screamed “I don’t know anything else, nothing else! General please spare me….please spare my life!”
Xiao Yao said “Don’t ask anymore, if I really died there would be no trace but now I’m alive there are plenty of traces to find out who.”
Xiang Liu asked Xiao Yao “Do you have an idea who?”
Xiao Yao looked solemn “The voice in the message jewel was Jing, the lyrics in the cloth was a song I sang for Jing. Even the cloth was Jing’s favorite type. The person who wants to kill me must be very close to Jing. I’m not certain yet but have a strong hunch.”
Furball flapped his wings excitedly towards Xiang Liu who nodded his head. Before Xiao Yao could react, a scream rendered the air as Furball’s claw dug into the seagull before he picked her up with his beak and went inside the cabin to enjoy his meal.
Xiang Liu didn’t even blink and even Left Ear was calm and unaffected, like Furball just captured some random seagull and was eating it. Xiao Yao lived in the mountains for tens of years and understood the laws of nature among the beasts, to eat one’s own kill. She knew this was the law of the demons, the strong winning over the weak. The difference even between the people and the demons was simply one cooked their food first and the other ate it raw. But hearing the sound from the cabin still made Xiao Yao feel uncomfortable so she asked Xiang Liu “I know you’re going to mock me, rightly so, for being so missish, but can you ask Furball to eat his meal somewhere else?”
Xiang Liu raised an eyebrow at Xiao Yao “Furball, did you hear that?”
Furball huffed a few times in annoyance at Xiao Yao before flying into the sky with the seagull in his beak.
Without Furball noisily eating, Xiao Yao pressed her luck with Xiang Liu “Can you use your powers to clean off the deck. It smells like gross blood!”
“I don’t find it annoying.” Xiang Liu leaned against the railing, clearly not planning to make Xiao Yao more comfortable.
Left Ear immediately grabbed some water and started cleaning the deck. Xiao Yao was touched and helped him out while loudly talking about how different some demons can be from one another.
After finishing, Xiao Yao’s eyes were seeing stars “Do you have anything to eat?”
“Yes!” Left Ear ran into the cabin and brought out some food. Xiao Yao found a shaded area and sat down to eat with Left Ear. After finishing, Xiao Yao drank some wine and asked “I told you to go to Sheng Nong Mountain to look for Zhuan Xu. If you were hungry who didn’t you go there?”
“Too far. So hungry couldn’t even walk. Later got money, buy food, no need to go.”
Xiao Yao thought he must’ve reached the East Sea by then and with no money to get a winged ride he couldn’t make it to Sheng Nong Mountain. “So that’s what happened.”
Left Ear asked “Who is Zhuan Xu?”
Everyone knew the Black Emperor but very few people knew his real name so Xiao Yao said “The Black Emperor.”
“What about the man who was with you before? You called him Bei.” Left Ear saw Bei many times in the slave death match arena, but he was always wearing a dog face mask so Left Ear didn’t know what Bei looked like.
Xiao Yao looked at Xiang Liu just as he glanced at her and the two’s eyes met. Xiao Yao immediately looked away and said to Left Ear “He died.”
Left Ear’s normally dispassionate eyes turned sad. In his heart, Bei wasn’t just someone who experienced the same fate as him, he was also Left Ear’s teacher that guided him to be reborn. Many times when Left Ear collapsed from a severe injury, feeling like not a shred of hope was left, he would see Bei silently sitting in the audience staring at him. He never said anything, but Bei’s presence was enough to convey warmth and hope to Left Ear. It gave him strength to stand back up one more time. Left Ear’s gratitude to Xiao Yao wasn’t just because she hugged him and gave him a sack of money, it was also because Xiao Yao and Bei’s relationship. Because Xiao Yao accepted his own species, because she was friends with his own species.
Left Ear asked “Do you miss him.”
Xiao Yao sighed and didn’t answer.
Left Ear was persistent and stared at Xiao Yao to ask again “He’s not here anymore, do you miss him?”
Xiao Yao cried out “Yes!”
Left Ear smiled “That will make him very happy!”
Xiao Yao stared at Xiang Liu as she said to Left Ear “You’re not him, how do you know whether he cares that someone misses him? He totally wouldn’t care!”
Left Ear’s express was dead serious, and he normally spoke so little and cared not to explain anything, but now he was very agitated and said “I know! We slaves are never scared of death! We’re not scared of anything, other than being scared of the dark! If I died and someone missed me….” Left Ear used his fist to hit his chest “then it wouldn’t be dark here, it would be very bright and very happy!”
Xiao Yao asked Xiang Liu “Is what he’s saying true?”
Xiang Liu smirked at Xiao Yao and teased “You actually want to believe that? I totally don’t care!
“I must be crazy then, to have believed it!” Xiao Yao laughed heartily and used that exaggerated gesture to snap the tenuous mood between them. She said to Left Ear “Can you steer the ship? If you can then let’s sail the ship back to land!”
“I can.” Left Ear raised the sails and took the wheel to turn the ship towards land.
Xiao Yao walked over to Xiang Liu “It’s another 4 or 5 days until we reach land. We’re the only ship in the ocean here so it’s very safe so you can heal.”
Xiang Liu looked out at the ocean and remained silent. Xiao Yao thought he was turning her down when she heard “Fine.”
Xiang Liu pointed at the earnestly steering the ship Left Ear “What are you going to do with him when you reach land? Let him continue to roam and be a cut rate killer for hire? What happens if he does it long and turns into a real bad guy, or get killed by someone else?”
Left Ear heard what Xiang Liu said and grumbled “I can feed myself!”
Xiao Yao smiled at Left Ear “You can work for the seagull demon then you can also work for me! I can feed you!”
Left Ear happily said “Fine, I’ll kill people for you.”
Xiao Yao shuddered and said with a wry laugh “I’m not hiring you to kill people!”
“I only know how to kill people.” Left Ear was very calm but his eyes betrayed his sadness. From when he had a memory he was a slave and his only ability was to kill people.
Xiao Yao stopped teasing and solemnly said “I want you to be my bodyguard, normally you don’t need to kill people but if someone tries to kill me then you kill them to protect me, okay?”
Left Ear stared at Xiao Yao, trying to decide if she really needed protection or was just pitying him.
Xiao Yao said “I’m not pitying you, I really need protecting. You saw yourself that someone wants to kill me. I don’t have my own bodyguard, and Miao Pu was assigned to me by Zhuan Xu but she can’t even beat you. You’re really powerful, if you agree to protect me then I’m the one who is getting the better end of the bargain.”
Left Ear’s eyes lit up and he happily said “I will! I will be your bodyguard!”
Xiao Yao said “Then it’s set, in the future you will protect me and I will ensure you have food to eat and clothes to wear, and I’ll find you a wife.”
Left Ear’s pale face blushed slowly so he focused on steering the ship and avoided looking at Xiao Yao and Xiang Liu.
Xiao Yao smiled and looked at Left Ear, feeling this hard to grasp feeling inside. Many years ago, was Xiang Liu just like this? Appearing dangerous and deadly, but actually simple and straightforward. If back then she could have met Xiang Liu, could he have found the woman he loved? Would he take her to buy perfumes at the flower demon shops? Go eat at hard to find restaurants in little alleys…….Xiao Yao glanced at Xiang Liu but he was standing with his profile to her, looking at the ocean with a small warm smile on his lips. Because of the angle, his smile made his face no longer cold but instead splashed with a sliver of warmth.
Xiao Yao stared for a while before looking away so that she could sort out all the jumbled feelings in her heart. She went inside the cabin to check on Miao Pu, feeding her another pill and some water before heading outside .
Xiao Yao found a shaded corner to sit down, looking up at the blue sky and hearing the sea birds crying, and with that she drowsily fell asleep.
Xiang Liu’s voice suddenly called out “Based on your deduction, who do you think tried to kill you?”
Xiao Yao sleepily opened her eyes “Jing’s voice in the message jewel is easy to fake since many have heard him speak, but the song lyrics on the cloth only Jing and his servants, my maids, and Feng Long and Xing Yue know it. Not even Zhuan Xu has heard me sing it! My maids would never, Jing’s servants would not betray him, so that only leaves Xing Yue and Feng Long. And only they would have the ability to pay the sky high price the seagull demon named.”
“Chi Sui Feng Long? Sheng Nong Xing Yue?”
“Yes. But I can’t figure out why. The only beef I have with them is running away from the wedding but so many years have passed. Feng Long really doesn’t seem to care anymore, and I may not be close with Xing Yue but there is nothing between us other than what happened with me and Feng Long. Even if she hated me, it can’t be to the degree of having me killed.” Xiao Yao waved her hand as if trying to shoo away a fly “Forget it, don’t want to think about it!”
Xiao Yao acted like a Great General and an Empress was no big deal, but neither were ordinary people so it didn’t matter which one did it, if there is a first time then there would be further attempts. Next time she might not be so lucky. Even Left Eat didn’t agree and grumbled “They should be killed.”
Xiao Yao laughed “This isn’t the wilderness or the mountains, you can’t kill people just because you think they pose a danger.” The world was just at the early days of peace, Feng Long and Xing Yue’s identities were very touchy and Zhuan Xu was trying to placate everyone and meld the groups together. Xiao Yao didn’t want her personal issue to cause a headache for Zhuan Xu, or cause tribal strife and conflict.
The ship was sailing smoothly westward, a flock of white sea birds circled overhead and periodically dived down into the water. Xiang Liu stared at the birds and slowly said “The Wen Xiao Liu I knew a long time ago had many deficiencies, but the one deficiency not there was to roll over and accept a beating like an idiot. Has Tu Shan Jing taken such good care of you all these years that you’ve forgotten how to stay alive now that he’s dead?”
Xiao Yao couldn’t handle anyone talking about Jing being dead so she glared at Xiang Liu.
Xiang Liu sneered right back and said in a sarcastic way “Did I say anything wrong? You may not be in the wilderness or the mountains but you’re in a place even more dangerous, Sheng Nong Mountain. The most dangerous beast at most eats you. But in Sheng Nong Mountain, your death affects so much more, do you know how many people will die if you died? Chi Sui Feng Long smashed the tradition of the Four Great Clans and now with the Tu Shan clan leader suddenly killed and leaving behind a child successor, if you died then the Tu Shan Clan may be picked apart and taken over by the three other clans. In the face of power and wealth, people are even brave enough to try and kill an Emperor, what’s stopping them from trying to kill you? I really regret getting my life connected with as stupid a woman as you! I beg of you, before you die from idiocy can you find a way to break our bug link first!”
Xiao Yao walked to the edge of the ship and looked out at the wide expanse of the ocean, the wind whipping her red wedding dress around her like a dance, and the red sunset behind her illuminated her vivid color so much that the red dress looked like blood was dripping from it.
The sun gradually set and the moon rose from the ocean surface. Xiao Yao pointed and said to Xiang Liu “Look!”
Xiang Liu stared coldly at her and didn’t move but Left Ear turned to look at the moon and said “Very round moon!”
Xiao Yao burst out laughing while staring at the moon “Jing picked the full moon night to get married. I wanted to ask him why but was too embarrassed to, and figured I could ask him after the wedding since we had plenty of time. The last time I saw him was 32 days ago, he came to Xiao Yue Peak to see me and was supposed to leave before dinner but stayed until long after dinner, until the moon rose high over the mountain. We walked in the moonlight along the mountain paths, the moon was very beautiful that night. I pulled him to dance as I sang but he didn’t know how so I laughed at him for being so silly. Later he left on his winged ride and pointed to the moon and said “At the next full moon, no matter if the moon is bright or dark, if people gather or part, I will be with you forever, never apart.”
Xiao Yao suddenly started singing towards the ocean.
If beloved is wind above the water
I will be the lily in the wind
To see and to miss
To see and to miss
If beloved is the cloud in the sky
I would be the moon in the cloud
To love and to cherish
To love and to cherish
If beloved was the tree in the forest
I would be the vines on the tree
Together and connected
Together and connected
Why does the world have sadness
Why do lives have gathering and parting
Only wish with beloved
Together forever, never apart
The silver moonlight lent an air of desolation around as the waves crested glittering in soft folds. Xiao Yao pointed at the moon with a smile “If I don’t see his body then in my memory he will always be on the back of his crane smiling at me while pointing to the moon to say “At the next full moon, no matter if the moon is bright or dark, if people gather or part, I will be with you forever, never apart.” I likely am very stupid and very weak, I can’t believe that he’s dead and feel that he may come back at the next full moon.”
Xiao Yao whirled around and stared with bright eyes at Xiang Liu and said in a strong voice “Xiang Liu, I don’t have a way to break our bug link right now. Sheng Nong Mountain is rife with danger but Qing Shui Town isn’t any better. It’s unclear who will drag the other down. Rather than worry that I’ll be a hassle to you, why don’t you worry about yourself first!”
Xiao Yao walked up to Xiang Liu and lifted up her arm from under her sleeve “While I’m still here to give you blood, hurry up and get better so you don’t burden me!”
Xiang Liu didn’t even act polite and took her arm to bite down and suck.
During the rest of the trip, every dawn and dusk Xiang Liu would drink Xiao Yao’s blood, and sometimes they would say a few words to one another, other times stay silent. One would sit with her arms wrapped around her knees staring sadly at the ocean as if waiting, the other would sit cross-legged facing the ocean healing with no expression on his face. After three days, Xiang Liu finished healing and stood up. He said to Left Ear “Thank you for giving me a ride.”
Left Ear asked “You’re leaving?”
Xiao Yao turned around and appeared to want to say something but ended up closing her mouth again.
Xiang Liu said “Tomorrow you’ll encounter the people sent by the Black Emperor to search for Xiao Yao.” He tossed a little jewel to Xiao Yao before vaulting off the ship to land on the water surface.
“What is this?” Xiao Yao asked.
“A sea map. If you don’t have ability to survive on Sheng Nong Mountain, then come to the ocean. This sea map is but a small portion of the ocean but with your body in no time you’ll be like a fish as familiar with the ocean.”
Xiao Yao remembered what Xiang Liu said before, there are countless islands in the vast ocean, some with nothing on it, others as beautiful as a dream.
“I don’t need this!” Xiao Yao wanted to toss the jewel back but Xiang Liu was already walking away, stepping on the emerald waves headed North until his form disappeared.
Left Ear watched Xiao Yao continue to stare at the direction where Xiang Liu vanished.
After a long long time, Xiao Yao finally looked away and carefully tucked the sea map jewel away. She said to Left Ear “Tomorrow I will wake Miao Pu up, don’t let her know that Xiang Liu was ever here. And never tell anyone that Xiang Liu killed the seagull. If anyone asks, say that you brought Miao Pu back on the ship and learned the seagull wanted to kill me so you killed her and saved me.”
Left Ear nodded his head.
Xiao Yao wasn’t afraid Left Ear couldn’t tell a lie, he was just so straightforward he never bothered to before.
At dawn, Xiao Yao woke Miao Pu up and she was immediately in tears to see Xiao Yao alive. She then howled with rage when she saw Left Ear and rushed over to attack him. Xiao Yao yelled “He’s on our side!”
Miao Pu heard it but she was so furious at Left Ear she continued to attack and Left Ear didn’t even try to fight back so she landed two good punches on him, and appeared to want to continue.
Xiao Yao harshly yelled “Miao Pu, stop!”
Miao Pu finally stopped and Xiao Yao chided her “I said he was on our side, what are you doing? If he beat you then you’re simply not as strong as him, why get so angry you want to kill him now?”
Miao Pu was angry and embarrassed, saying through tears “I want to beat him up not because he defeated me, but because…..he harassed me!”
Left Ear harass a girl? Xiao Yao was so excited she asked “How did he harass you?”
“I couldn’t move and he was sniffing all over my body.”
Xiao Yao understood but to explain why to Miao Pu would involve talking about Bei, and Xiao Yao didn’t want to talk about Bei so she ordered “Left Ear didn’t mean it, he was just curious and used scent to determine the situation. He didn’t mean to harass you so you let this go. From now on Left Ear is serving me so you don’t be mean to him!”
How could she be mean to him? Miao Pu glared at Left Ear and said nothing. She was one of the guards trained by Zhuan Xu and had seen all types of kill attacks but when she saw Left Ear tear the winged horses apart with his bare hands even she was taken aback. She believed then that Left Ear would take the most direct and bloody approach to killing anything.
An hour later they encountered a ship searching for Xiao Yao, and Xiao Xiao happened to be on that ship. She collapsed on the deck after seeing Xiao Yao hale and hearty. Xiao Yao rushed over to help her up but Xiao Xiao’s expression was wan and exhausted.
Xiao Yao apologized for alarming Xiao Xiao who explained “I’m fine but His Majesty has been so worried about the Miss that he doesn’t eat or sleep. Miss needs to hurry back with me now to see His Majesty.”
Xiao Yao said to Left Ear “I need to go first, you stay with the ship and come later.” Xiao Yao ordered Miao Pu “Left Ear is new here and doesn’t know anything, you take care of him.”
Miao Pu rolled her eyes “When he does anything it’s the most vicious attack, who would dare do anything to him.”
Xiao Yao knew Miao Pu just had a tart tongue and laughingly smacked her before saying to Left Ear “Miao Pu has a tough demeanor but a soft heart, ignore whatever she says and just stick with her!”
Xiao Xiao took Xiao Yao on the winged ride and rushed to see the Black Emperor.
After half a day, Xiao Yao saw an island that was the one she landed on with Miao Pu that day. The winged horses were still dead on the grass and the area covered with dark blood. Zhuan Xu wasn’t even avoiding the disgusting surroundings and was instead sitting in the bloody grass and staring in a daze out at the ocean. His clothing was covered with blood and grass stains so much that it wasn’t even clear what the original color was. His face was dark with stubble and his hair a wild mess, nearly unable to make out his original visage.
Xiao Yao walked over in shock and asked “Zhuan Xu, is that you?”
Zhuan Xu slowly turned his head and happily followed by nervousness flitted past “Xiao Yao, is that you?”
Xiao Yao walked over and knelt down to touch his messy hair “Yes! It’s me! My god, how did you end up this way?”
“Not an illusion?” Zhuan Xu’s had dark circles under his eyes, clearly he hadn’t slept in days. Xiao Yao’s heart ached and she hugged him tight “No, I’m not an illusion! I’m sorry, I was wrong, I was wrong………”
Zhuan Xu finally believed that Xiao Yao was back alive beside him and the sense of elation was combined with even more fear of losing her. He tightly embraced her back as if he wanted to chain her beside him forever, never to lose her again. “You’re back! You’re really back! It’s been hundreds of years since I was truly afraid, but these past few days I was abjectly terrified!”
Xiao Yao laid her head on Zhuan Xu’s shoulder as her tears came down “I’m sorry, I was wrong!”
Zhuan Xu said “It’s not your fault, it’s my fault for being so careless.”
Xiao Yao silently cried and was too scared to tell Zhuan Xu that she almost gave up! She forgot what she went through, she forgot about Zhuan Xu, she didn’t try to escape and stay alive, she just wanted to end her pain. She promised to Zhuan Xu “I won’t ever do it again.”
Zhuan Xu thought she meant that she wouldn’t easily trust and fall into a trap again. He patted her on the back “I won’t give you a chance to make the same mistake.” Zhuan Xu’s eyes flowed his uncontrollable anguish.
Xiao Yao wiped her tears away and purposely acted upset “You smell!”
Zhuan Xu smelled himself and agreed “I do stink, but why do I stink like this?” He tried to shove his smelling sleeve in Xiao Yao’s face and she avoided it and pushed Zhuan Xu. He actually fell backward so she was alarmed she ran over to quickly help him up “I’ll take you back to rest, you need to eat something and get a good night’s sleep.”
Zhuan Xu acted like he didn’t hear and still raised his arm to shove his stinky sleeve in her face. Xiao Yao picked up the sleeve and took a deep whiff “Satisfied? Willing to go rest now?”
Zhuan Xu smiled and stopped goofing around.
Xiao Yao helped him up and his guard moved to help but took a step back when Zhuan Xu shot over a look. Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu took the cloud carriage to the Xuan Yuan army base near Qing Shui Town.
Xiao Yao helped Zhuan Xu inside a residence but no one was inside. Zhuan Xu explained “I rushed so fast here I didn’t bring servants, and I sent Xiao Xiao and them all to search for you and are exhausted so I let them go rest.”
Zhuan Xu wasn’t someone who needed assistance but with his current exhausted state Xiao Yao didn’t want to leave him be so she assisted him in bathing and changing. Zhuan Xu rapped her on the head “Don’t be unwilling, this is totally your task after what you did.”
Xiao Yao knew she was in the wrong and lowered her head “I’m not unwilling, it’s an honor to assist the Black Emperor.”
Zhuan Xu huffed and flicked Xiao Yao on the head for her sass.
Zhuan Xu didn’t want to eat after bathing but Xiao Yao insisted he drink some porridge before giving him some medicine.
Xiao Yao had Zhuan Xu lay down but he wouldn’t close his eyes so Xiao Yao asked “You’re not tired?”
“I haven’t slept in days but I never felt tired. After showering and relaxing I am so tired, my eyelids are like two mountains pressing down on it.”
“Then close your eyes!”
Zhuan Xu was silent and then said “Don’t laugh at me! For the first time in my life I’m scared to the point of not daring to sleep. I’m afraid you’ll be gone when I wake up.
Xiao Yao’s heart ached so she pushed Zhuan Xu to move over and grabbed a pillow herself. She took off her shoes and laid down on the pallet “I’ll sleep with you for a bit.”
Zhuan Xu reached out his hand to take Xiao Yao’s hand but hesitated until he grabbed just her sleeve. Xiao Yao smiled at him “It’s feel like when we were kids.”
Zhuan Xu smiled and said nothing, but actually it wasn’t like this when they were kids. Back then they were as close as could be, with Xiao Yao nestled tightly in his arms, there wouldn’t be a sliver of distance between them. He wouldn’t just hold her sleeve either, he would cradle her in his arms and place his chin on her head while she crooned lullabies to him.
Xiao Yao said “Still not closing your eyes? Go to sleep!”
Zhuan Xu said “Sing me a song.”
Xiao Yao huffed “How old are you now? Still need to be lulled to sleep?” But she started singing nonetheless.
In the familiar melody, Zhuan Xu finally couldn’t hold out any longer, closing his eyes and falling deep asleep. Xiao Yao stayed wide awake, her eyes staring at the canopy above. She was deciding between telling or not telling Zhuan Xu, and decided not to tell him. She couldn’t confirm it was Xing Yue and Feng Long, or either of them, or someone learned the details and decided to set them up as the culprits. Plus this matter involved the Lover’s Bug linking her and Xiang Liu, to explain now would require going back tens of years to what happened. Zhuan Xu was against her getting close to Xiang Liu from the beginning and she had promised Zhuan Xu she wouldn’t have any further contact with Xiang Liu. She downplayed the bug connection between them until that lie became a snow ball that has only grown larger and larger.
Zhuan Xu slept from dusk until noon the next day. When he drowsily work up, he flopped like a fish even before his eyes were wide awake and called “Xiao Yao!”
Xiao Yao opened the canopy and stuck her head in with a smile “You’re awake? Hungry? I made food already so you can eat after washing up.” She didn’t wait for his answer and pulled her head back out.
Xiao Xiao came to assist his ablutions while explaining how she found Xiao Yao yesterday. Zhuan Xu’s face grew dark when he heard Miao Pu was also on the ship. Xiao Xiao gingerly said “It’s time to eat, the Miss cooked everything herself and was busy all morning.”
Zhuan Xu’s expression softened and he quickly walked out because pausing to check himself in the mirror. There were six plates of food on the table, four vegetables and two meat, eat brightly colored with fresh ingredients and Zhuan Xu felt his appetite come back in force.
Xiao Yao handed him a bowl of soup “You can eat more today, but not too much, just 7/8th full is good.”
Xiao Yao sat across from Zhuan Xu and picked up her bowl to eat silently. Zhuan Xu ate with a look of happiness on his face, if every day could be like this, having a meal with Xiao Yao after working hard all day, then no matter how tired he was it would dissipate.
After eating Xiao Yao and Xiao Xiao cleaned up while Zhuan Xu went to do work while prepping to leave in the evening to return to Sheng Nong Mountain.
Xiao Yao wanted to prep food for dinner and took Miao Pu to the kitchen to help. Left Ear sat under the tree in the courtyard and closed his eyes to nap.
Xiao Xiao appeared and Left Ear opened his eyes. Xiao Xiao glanced at him before walking to Miao Pu “His Majesty wants to see you.”
Miao Pu’s face turned ashen but Xiao Yao said “You go first, I’ll come right after. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”
Miao Pu followed Xiao Xiao to see Zhuan Xu and immediately fell to her knees before him. Zhuan Xu calmly said “Explain from the very beginning.”
Miao Pu recounted how Xiao Yao got the message jewel, knocked Xiao Xiao out, stole two winged horses, used the Yellow Emperor’s badge to sneak out of Sheng Nong Mountain, how they saw a ship, and so on.
Miao Pu continued “After Miss went into the ocean, she was gone for some time and I wanted to go look for her. As I was leaving, Left Ear – the man Miss brought back – appeared and ripped the winged horses apart. I fought with him and he was too strong for me to beat. I thought he would kill me but a gust of wind blew past and he sniffed the air and suddenly didn’t kill me. He immobilized me and started smelling me all over. I tried to resist and he knocked me unconscious. When I woke up, I was in a ship cabin and Miss and Left Ear were both on the ship. I asked Miss what happened and she said that she’s known Left Ear from long ago. She said Left Ear killed the seagull demon and that he was serving her now. I feel Left Ear is very loyal to the Miss.”
Zhuan Xu said “ How do you think you should be punished?”
Miao Pu bowed her head to the ground “I didn’t dissuade Miss from leaving and I didn’t alert Your Majesty, instead I assisted her to leave and almost led to a disastrous result. I deserve to be sliced into a million pieces and don’t dare ask for leniency. I only beg Your Majesty for a swift death.”
Zhuan Xu nodded to Xiao Xiao who was about to strike when Xiao Yao rushed in “Your Majesty cannot kill Miao Pu!”
Zhuan Xu coldly said “No reward for good work, no punishment for failure, how else can I govern with authority and rule a kingdom. This is not something you can interfere, Xiao Yao. Get out!”
Xiao Yao said “Miao Pu used to be your guard but you gave her to me. She is now my maid which means you are her old master and I am her current master. Then she needs to be loyal to me and not you anymore. Everything Miao Pu did is at my order, she is being loyal to me and I am pleased with her.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao but his expression softened “You just know when to muddle things up.”
Xiao Yao laughed “How did I muddle things up? Don’t I make sense? Your Majesty gave me a maid, shouldn’t she be loyal to me? Your punishment and reward needs to make sense!”
Zhuan Xu said “Miao Pu is no longer able to be a good guard, but she can be a passable maid for you. Fine, you take her back! But let me make clear that if even one hair is harmed on your head then I will flay her alive!”
Miao Pu shuddered and declared “I will protect Miss completely!”
Xiao Yao said to Zhuan Xu “Speaking of protecting, I want to tell you that I got myself a bodyguard named Left Ear.”
“Wasn’t he a killer for hire?”
“He was before but going forward he’ll be my bodyguard.”
Zhuan Xu said “Tell me what happened on those days you went missing?”
“Someone hired Left Ear and the seagull demon to kill me. But I know Left Ear from before and he didn’t know the target was me when he accepted the job. After he saw it was me, he refused to go through with it. The seagull demon wanted to kill me so Left Ear killed her. I asked the seagull demon who hired them to kill me but she never saw the client so she didn’t know.”
“Call Left Ear in, I want to speak with him alone.”
“Left Ear used to be a slave in the death matches, locked in a cage for many years. He doesn’t talk much and isn’t sociable or knowledgeable about worldly affairs. You’ll see for yourself.”
Left Ear went in and with his personality he saw Zhuan Xu like anyone else and didn’t abject himself before Zhuan Xu. Xiao Yao knew Zhuan Xu wouldn’t get upset since he wasn’t one of those lords who grew up in Sheng Nong Mountain as Zhuan Xu had seen all the suffering of the world and would understand and respect Left Ear’s background and attitude.
Xiao Yao could imagine that Left You would be expressionless when being questioned and have not much to say, which was the truth since Left Ear didn’t know much about the assignment to kill her. All he was told was to kill Miao Pu and he would get ten gold coins, and hopefully Zhuan Xu wouldn’t blow a gasket when he heard the price on her head. Zhuan Xu would never even think that Xiang Liu could be involved so he wouldn’t ask about that. All Left Ear needed to do was follow Xiao Yao’s instructions on the seagull demon and stick with him killing her then that wouldn’t need any further explanation.
After some time, Left Ear came out and Xiao Yao asked “How did it go?”
Left Ear thought and said “He’s good, he doesn’t treat me like a freakish monster.”
Xiao Yao smiled and patted Left Ear’s shoulder “Told you that my Gege is really good.”
Xiao Xiao walked out and said respectfully “His Majesty asks that the Miss go in.”
Xiao Yao went in and asked “What do you think of Left Ear?”
Zhuan Xu said “He’s a wild beast that cannot be fully tamed, but he will be completely loyal to the person he decides on. Xiao Yao, do you really trust him?”
Xiao Yao said solemnly “I trust him!”
“Then let him follow you! Until I find out who is trying to kill you, you’ll need someone like him to protect you.”
Xiao Yao suddenly thought – was Xiang Liu thinking the same thing, that she might get targeted again, so deftly steered her to find a future for Left Ear.
Zhuan Xu saw Xiao Yao zoned out and walked up to her “What are you thinking? Any new clues?”
“Oh! No, nothing. So many people have reason to want to kill me but now no one dares to openly do it like Mu Fei tried, so they all hide and hire killers.”
Zhuan Xu said “I don’t believe I can’t unearth the truth. Don’t worry, there aren’t many killers are clueless to the real world as Left Ear so most killers are too scared to accept the job no matter how high the price.”
Xiao Yao nodded “I know.” She also knew that most people would be trying to kill her but for Zhuan Xu protecting her, now most merely thought about it without ever daring to make a move.
Zhuan Xu went back to his desk and picked up a scroll “You go play with Miao Pu and them. I’ve got work to do and when I’m done we’ll go back to Sheng Nong Mountain.”
Xiao Yao looked at Zhuan Xu, these past few days he went through the ringer and even after sleeping last night there were still dark circles under his eyes and he looked wan.
Zhuan Xu raised his head “What is it?”
“Gege, I……..” Xiao Yao’s voice was a little chocked up so she turned around so her back was to Zhuan Xu “You’re the only one I have now, so you have to be well!”
Zhuan Xu said “I will!”
Xiao Yao tried to rush out but Zhuan Xu called “Xiao Yao!”
Xiao Yao stopped with her eyes filled with tears and Zhuan Xu stared at her back and said “I’ve always been right behind you, no matter when as long as you want to come back, I’ll be here.”
Xiao Yao nodded and walked out.
After dinner Zhuan Xu met with a few of the army base generals so they didn’t set off back to Sheng Nong Mountain until it was late into the night. Xiao Yao knew Zhuan Xu let a lot lag because of her so he had so much more to do, saving the traveling for sleeping hours to buy more time.
Zhuan Xu’s cloud carriage was especially built for speed, it wasn’t big but was enough for one person to sleep comfortably at night. But with two people sleeping it was a bit tight so Zhuan Xu told Xiao Yao “You sleep, I need to do work and when I get tired I’ll just lean against the side to nap.”:
Xiao Yao grabbed his work “You lay down to sleep, I can sleep sitting.”
Zhuan Xu tried to grab it back “Give it back to me! How come you’re always naysaying me. Be good, go to sleep.”
“You’ll be busy all day tomorrow once we get back to Sheng Nong Mountain. I can go back there and sleep so you listen to me.”
Zhuan Xu put on his stern face “I really have things I need to do. Stop it now and go to sleep like I told you.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Aren’t you going to punish me for sneaking out of Sheng Nong Mountain?”
Zhuan Xu laughed “You want me to punish you? You did warn me that I still have to punish you! What do you think your punishment should be?” When he heard she sneaked off the mountain, he was so furious he vowed to teach her a lesson, but when she couldn’t be found, all he wanted was for her to be safe and come back. When she came back all he felt was happiness without a thought to punish her.
Xiao Yao made a small gesture with her fingers “Just a little punishment, okay?”
Zhuan Xu pretended to think before agreeing “Fine, just a little punishment.”
Xiao Yao said “An Emperor can’t go back on his word!”
Zhuan Xu furrowed his brow “How come I feel like you have the upper hand again.”
“My punishment is to sleep sitting up! Okay, neither of us can go back on our word!” Xiao Yao put the scrolls away and turned off the light in the cloud carriage, sending the inside into darkness.
Zhuan Xu may have been played but all he felt was joy, placing a blanket around Xiao Yao before laying down to sleep.
“Xiao Yao, sing for me!”
Xiao Yao hummed the childhood song from their youth and Zhuan Xu fell asleep. Xiao Yao closed her eyes and continued humming, and gradually the song turned into the one she sang for Jing.
Tears fell from Xiao Yao’s eyes.
At dawn Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao arrived on Sheng Nong Mountain. Zhuan Xu deposited Xiao Yao on Xiao Yue Peak before rushing back to Zhi Jin Summit.
The Yellow Emperor sat in the corridor staring at the white cloud mountains in the distance. Xiao Yao knelt down “I worried Grandfather.”
The Yellow Emperor said nothing and seemed to be in deep though. Xiao Yao stayed kneeling until her legs were numb when the Yellow Emperor finally sighed loudly “Since you disappeared, Zhuan Xu refused to leave the East Sea and wouldn’t listen to anyone. Next time you want to take a risk, think of Zhuan Xu first.”
“There won’t be a next time.” Xiao Yao didn’t just promise Xiang Liu, she also promised Zhuan Xu not to give up.
The Yellow Emperor said “Get up and go rest.”
Xiao Yao stood up when the Yellow Emperor said “I really like that child Jing, but no matter what you are not fated to be with him. He’s dead now so you need to forget him! You should stay on Sheng Nong Mountain, Zhuan Xu will give you a lifetime of peaceful happiness.”
Xiao Yao didn’t say anything and just went back to her room. She hadn’t slept properly in two days and was exhausted, but she couldn’t fall asleep so she took a sleeping pill. As she drowsily fell asleep, the sadness washed over her thinking that she didn’t need to use these pills anymore, who knew she would need pills again to sleep.